By Kerianne Tupac
The University of Michigan Department of Theatre & Drama closes out the fall semester with William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. A bright comedy that highlights the dangers of believing everything that you hear, Much Ado About Nothing plays 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9, 8 p.m. Dec. 10-11, 2 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Power Center for the Performing Arts.
UM Professor of Theatre & Drama John Neville-Andrews, whose work was last seen in Uncommon Women and Others, directs. Ben Blackman and Alli Brown (see photo) are cast in the lead roles of the bickering Benedick and Beatrice.
One of Shakespeare’s best-known comedies, the title of Much Ado About Nothing refers to the ample gossip and confusion running rampant among the characters of the play. In the early seventeenth century, “nothing” was a synonym for the word “noting,” the practice of eavesdropping. This linguistic ambiguity highlights the play’s central themes, as it comments on the pettiness of rumor spreading and the ultimate question of genuine truth.
“By emphasizing the secretive aspects of the play and all of the resulting hearsay, Shakespeare explores questions about truth and integrity — all within the context of a light and jovial comedy,” said Neville-Andrews. “It is this balance between subtle sinister undertones and the innocent naivete that makes Much Ado About Nothing such an effective and timeless comedy.”
The production updates the setting to the 1920s, and incorporates the music of Cole Porter, George & Ira Gershwin, and Irving Berlin in the multiple dances and celebrations which are in the play.
Much Ado takes place in the idyllic Italian town of Messina. On their way home from a war, a group of soldiering friends visits the home of Leonato, his daughter Hero, and niece Beatrice. A self-proclaimed bachelor, Benedick, easily falls into a skirmish of words with his old acquaintance, the equally independent Beatrice. Meanwhile, Claudio falls instantly in love with Hero and rushes to propose.
But Don John, jealous of the young lovers, plots to ruin the wedding through deceit. Through a following series of misunderstandings and manipulation, the truth ultimately comes out and the lovers are able to rejoice in a happy ending.
Joining Neville-Andrews on the creative team is scenic designer Gary Decker, whose work was last seen in Our Town. Jessica Hahn (Ragtime) designs costumes with Rob Murphy (Armide) designing lights. All three are faculty members in the Department of Theatre & Drama. Guest Kristi Davis serves as choreographer with wigs and makeup by Dawn Rivard.
Following the Dec. 10 performance, there will be a post-performance discussion moderated by Neville-Andrews and featuring members of the cast. Curtain Call Fridays offer an opportunity for audience members to talk with artists about each production. Sponsored by the Friends of Theatre & Drama, the discussions are free and open to all.
Tickets for Much Ado About Nothing Love are $24 and $18 reserved seating with students only $10 with ID.
Tickets are available in person at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League. The Ticket Office is open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted. Tickets may also be ordered online at www.music.umich.edu.
The Power Center, located at 121 N. Fletcher, is wheelchair accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.